Dear Readers, I hope you’re not all bored to death by the frogs yet – I am still fascinated by the goings-on in the pond. This is clearly the biggest aggregation of frogs that I’ve seen in the pond in over ten years, and I am trying to work out why this year is so special. In the south-east it’s been a remarkably mild winter – I only remember the pond freezing on one day – and so I’m guessing that more of the amphibians have survived. Plus, the pond will have recovered since it was cleaned out a few years ago, so it’s probably at peak production. But even so, it’s like a froggy Serengeti out there. I just sat in the twilight and listened to them singing yesterday, which was a bit of a treat following a few foggy-minded days.
Every time I venture into the garden there’s a mass splashing as all the ‘double-frogs’ disappear under the water, though there’s so much frogspawn that it’s difficult for them to dive to the bottom. Then if I sit quietly they gradually resurface, and after a while some brave soul will start to sing, followed by another frog, and then another. It’s not a particularly musical sound to our ears but it clearly works with the ladies.
The white vocal sacs of the males must be quite an attraction too, especially in the half-light – I noticed how they shone out in the twilight yesterday. Apparently the females are attracted to the males with the longest and loudest calls. I remember one female sitting on a rock last year, surveying a choir of wildly croaking males, before entering the water and getting jumped on by the whole lot of them. Fortunately she was a big girl and managed to kick most of them off.
The males, once they’ve found a female, will hang on for grim death until she releases her eggs, which can take several days. Apparently the egg-laying nearly always happens at night, and that’s been my experience – I’ve never seen a female actually producing the eggs, but in the morning there are the big clumps of spawn. Once the female judges that the time is right to release her eggs, the male releases his sperm and voila, fertilisation. I suspect that the temperature of the water might have something to do with the actual release of the eggs – activity has certainly picked up now that the weather has warmed a little. The male may leave the female to try to find another mate once spawning is complete, but competition is intense in my little pond so I wouldn’t hold out a lot of hope.
And in a day or so it will all be over and done with, and in about three weeks the spawn will melt and tiny, comma-shaped tadpoles will emerge. I hope there’s enough food in the pond for them – they like algae but I know they’ll also eat lettuce, so if they seem to be struggling I’ll know what to do. Probably one in a thousand of the eggs will survive to be an adult frog, which looking at the volume of frogspawn is probably just as well. I don’t know if anyone else remembers the 1970s eco-horror film ‘Frogs’, but if all of these eggs turned into an adult frog I think I’d need a bigger house. I rather like the idea of ‘When Nature Strikes Back’ though. ‘A Croak! A Scream!’ indeed. Ray Milland was a good actor, but he was certainly in some stinkers.